American Tourist George Stoddard and French journalist Nico Collard get caught up in an intricate scheme involving Baphomet and the Knights Templar
October 2, 2010
Kalypso Media Digital (PC), UbiSoft (Wii/DS)
Mac, Windows, iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch, Nintendo DS, Wii
Genre: MysteryRelease Date: September 3, 2010 (PC/Mac)May 26, 2010 (iPad HD)January 25, 2010 (iPhone/iPod Touch)March 20, 2009 (Nintendo Wii/Nintendo DS)Platforms: PC (reviewed), Mac, iPad, iPod, Touch, iPhone, Nintendo Wii, Nintendo DS
The first Broken Sword from Revolution has recently been reissued in a newly refangled “Director’s Cut” version. This was a game originally made in the late 90’s for DOS and Windows 95, then adapted not long ago to be played on Wii and the Nintendo DS and then the iPhone and the iPad when it came along and finally now has come full circle (of blood) back to the PC for the Windows 7 and Mac OS X generation on the Steam app platform. There’s even a version for netbooks at someplace called AppUp. And if you feel like waiting a bit longer, a retail version is reportedly coming soon from Mastertronic. Whew. This is more intricate than the game’s plot.
I admit, though, I’m a little lost about the “director’s cut” designation. The original idea of the Director’s Cut was for a movie released as the director intended it to be, before the studio hacked it to pieces in the interest of increased crowd appeal. Then, when such repackaging became popular, movie studios and game publishers and everyone else scrambled to slap “Director’s Cut” on any old revised movie or game in the hope of, you guessed it, increased crowd appeal. Are we to believe that when Charles Cecil and the other Revolutionaries first planned this game it was already clairvoyantly configured for the iPhone?
Even back in the Nineties Broken Sword 1 had already had more marketing-whiz titles than you could shake a stick at. The original subtitle, Shadow of the Templars, was no doubt judged too confusing for American markets, so it was switched to “Circle of Blood.” While in Europe the game was titled “Baphomet’s Curse.” Who’s Baphomet? Some sort of half-goat fertitility god that the guys at Revolution were wise to tone down for their own purposes.
So how has Broken Sword 1 survived all this revamping and repurposing and retitling? Surprisingly well. A game that generally pops up on most “best of” adventures lists, it still tells a terrific story of ancient rituals and modern-day relic hunting in Paris and other atmospheric locales. George Stobbart is an American tourist who gets caught up in an elaborate intrigue, involving, of course, the Knights Templar and our old friend Baphomet and a lot of other shady characters. He also runs into tony French freelance journalist Nico Collard, with whom he teams up to track down the big story. It’s classic pointing-and-clicking the whole way, with gorgeous hand-drawn backgrounds and sprightly 2D sprites, a lush score, expert if at times hammy voice acting, funky little animated hand icons and glorious cinematic cut scenes.
The director’s cut aspect I found to be a sort of give and take deal. What you get is several new scenes, and even a new subplot or two, where Nico plays the lead (à la BS2). These peter out somewhat mysteriously soon enough, but have been worked seamlessly into the original. They also include a handful of handheld-device-friendly minigames, such as a sliding block door opener and a b&w photo jigsaw puzzle. Also new, or reworked, are the inventory and character conversation systems. Dave Gibbons has drawn all new character insets to accompany the dialogue in the game, with detailed character expressions as well as the usual lip-syncing.
Actually, I think there are a whole bunch of other new bells and whistles, but it’s a little hard to keep track what is from which version, or conversion. For instance, there’s a diary that keeps track of the main characters’ key progress that I don’t recall from the original. I think some and perhaps all of the original cut scenes have been remade.
On the other hand, what you lose in this new version is a good number of hotspots from the original. What you get instead is a blinking blue circle over the few remaining hotspots. Both of these revisions, of course, help simplify the game, and perhaps were even necessary when porting to the Wii and Nintendo. Alas, they also cut into the player’s immersion in the game, as well as eliminating some of the narrative detail and the challenge. It’s a bit like playing a scrollable pinball game now. It’s too bad the new PC and Mac version didn’t predate the handheld editions. We might have gotten the best of the upgrade and avoided the worst.
This is the first time I ever played anything on Steam, a gaming application that you download and install and through which you order and play games (and get pop-up self-promotional ads, natch). It’s similar to the Telltale Games setup in the sense of having a player community to interact with, if you so choose. You have to supply your credit card info as well as the usual registration fodder and this is the aspect that makes me, for one, a little nervous. On the plus side of such a system, however, they can more easily supply you with an older game such as this one without the usual configuration hassles. The Steam app handles all that for you. I did play BS1DC in a DOSBox sized window that accurately reflected the original pixel count, which meant I played the entire game is a window about a quarter the size of my laptop screen, but I preferred that to the enhanced window, which merely doubles the pixels and not the resolution, or the full-screen option. On a wide screen monitor, full screen is not a serious option.
My personal advice is that if you’ve never played Shadow of the Templars, you’d be better off looking for an original copy of the game. Even if you have to play it on DOSbox, which nowadays easily handles CDs and full-screen mode. You might then consider playing this “enhanced” version afterward, for the new material. If you have already played the original, then I think this DC edition is reasonably priced enough for an enjoyable trip down memory lane. Just so long as you’re not as paranoid as I am about giving out your credit card number.
The original Broken Sword: Shadow of the Templars is undeniably an AG classic, and this new version has been both enhanced and marred by its various Silly-Puttyish portings, but it still rates an overall A. And I still don’t think George is Nico’s type.
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